Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Tea

My sister, Bonnie, called me this past week to let me know a family member had passed away.  He was a man who had a lot of trauma in his childhood.  My mother used to be concerned about him and... as it turned out... for good reason.  He entered the world of substance abuse very early and never really left it.  He died in the hospital in his late 40s, not a direct result of drugs but a life of abusing his body made it impossible to fight a serious infection.

I was in front of the computer when Bonnie called.  I looked up his obituary in our local newspaper.  There was nothing there so I did a quick search and found his name and one sentence "services pending".  Bonnie said that was all there was so far, even though he had passed last week.

She wanted me to know a few of his siblings were flying in from Texas, where the family had moved when I was just out of childhood.  At some time he had found his way back to our hometown while we lived in another state.  I was told various family members tried to help him but his decisions always took him back to the dark side of life.   There will be a short memorial service for him next week. 

I thought about that obituary the remainder of the day.  I couldn't get it out of my mind as I drifted off to sleep that night.  What kind of life leaves nothing for the obituary?  As it is, our entire life is condensed to just a few paragraphs of black and white letters... but nothing?

What constitutes a wasted life?  One does not have to conquer worlds, obtain great career status, accumulate millions, write best selling books, make world changing advances in science and medicine, or preach to millions of people in large stadiums. 

My sister was eulogized for being a loving mother, as was my mom.  Even those who had made many mistakes in their life, as did my brother-in-law who passed on recently, even these people left a life to write about... but nothing?

How can one leave only a couple of words... "services pending"... never to be filled in with names of those loved and places lived, a list of interests and hobbies, perhaps one or two special accomplishments... a job, serving in a war, volunteer work, a church or social group, the way one made people smile or always reached out to help the poor.  A man who lived almost five decades... and nothing?  What a tragedy.

I once again reaffirmed the decision to live life on purpose, to think about what my journey will show when I look back at it all.  I do hope they do not tell everything, as.... "she left large stacks of books unread". 


matty said...

What thoughtful post, Brenda! While this may sound macabre', I love to read obits which have statements like: "Lena loved mysteries and spent a great deal of time reading and sharing her love of..." Or, "Lena was well known for her delicious apple pie, which was requested for every church potluck." That is the kind of obit I want. I suspect mine will read: "Matty went to be with the Lord while standing barefoot in her garden, shooing chickens away from her beans." LOL

Have a lovely day, dear!

jAne said...

i have nothing to share other than to say this is a sobering post. thought provoking.


freetobeme - Anita said...

Oh boy, you've got my mind working, I want to live my life on purpose too. Being in my 70's I hope it's not too late! :)

Vee said...

This family member has no doubt been the source of a fair amount of concern over the years. At the very least, his passing allows everyone to move through and on. And don't you know that my mind is on Dean's Watch thoughts as I'm deep into the rescue of Job. Perhaps it'll be those siblings and cousins, etc., who will frame this man's life in ways that can be used. Thank you for this interesting and thought-provoking post.

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful post...thanks for sharing. Even those who do their best to live well, to others may not have "anything to show for it", or so it seems to me. But tis a good idea to be going about doing good too. At least so our Heavenly FATHER is pleased with us!!
Blessings, Elizabeth

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries™ said...

Hello dear Brenda. As Jane said, this is a very sobering post. I agree with Elizabeth's wise observation. There's a chance that he left more than is apparent on the surface. Who knows what deeds he did, or didn't do, in the life he led. I suppose only the good Lord and he know for certain, but the hope of such things is a comfort. I read once that prayer can be retroactive...thus I pray for the man that he was...before caught in the grips of "Turkish delight" (as C.S. Lewis calls such things in "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe"). Thank you for this thought provoker. My sympathies to you and your family.
Love and hugs,

Anonymous said...

Hee, hee, Brenda! Stacks of books unread, that's a good one!! That will be me for sure!

Friend Debra

Anonymous said...

I always felt that a person's true memorial is in the hearts of those who loved him in spite of his mistakes.
p.s. I tend to read obituaries with a 'grain of salt' anyway.

Heather said...

I find reading obits very interesting - you can tell a lot about folks from how it's written. Sometimes I find myself wishing I had known the person who passed on because their godly character is so evident in their write up! My husband has a number of books that record the unusual epitaph's on various graves around the country. Most of them are very funny, but many of them are just plainly sad. It's obvious they were difficult in life and not honored in death. We spend quite a bit time exploring cemeteries because of the Historian's genealogy hobby and we are often encouraged by the expressions of faith on headstones of believers. I guess that's my life challenge - to make sure my faith is showing, despite the struggles of chronic illness!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Reminds me of my grandfather who abandoned two sons by different mothers (he was actually married t times) and left mostly a legacy of hurt and rejection. So sad.